To mark the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic on 12 April 1912, the National Maritime Museum put on an exhibition, entitled, Titanic Remembered, which highlighted some of the stories told by survivors of the disaster to Walter Lord, who wrote the book, A Night to Remember on which the 1957 film of the same name was based. When the exhibition closed at the end of September, there was a brief opportunity to research two of the Museum’s most emotionally evocative Titanic-related items before they are re-displayed in the ‘Voyagers’ gallery. Both are mechanical objects: an 18-carat gold pocket watch and a child’s musical pig.
- Robert Douglas Norman and his 18-carat gold pocket watch (ZBA0004)
The owner of the watch, 27-year old Robert Douglas Norman, had joined the Titanic at Cherbourg, intending to visit his brother in Vancouver and from there continue to travel the world. As a male passenger, Norman’s chances of surviving the disaster were poor at best and his body was one of over 300 recovered by the cable ship, Mackay-Bennett. The watch was returned to his brother and passed down through the family until it was donated to the Museum in 1995.
The musical pig belonged to Edith Rosenbaum (1879–1975), who, like Norman, boarded the ship at Cherbourg. Edith, a 32-year old American, was a successful player in the fashion world and could afford to travel first-class. However, despite her professional success, her personal life was in pieces after she narrowly survived a road traffic accident, which claimed the life of her fiancé, Ludwig Loewe, in 1911.
The 'lucky pig' (ZBA2989)
Edith changed her surname to Russell in 1918, owing to political sensitivities following the First World War. In a televised interview, about 1970, she described how, when was asked to evacuate, she locked all 19 of her trunks before heading for the lifeboats. ‘I never would have left the ship,’ she recalled, ‘but a sailor came along and he said “say you; you don’t want to be saved, well I’ll save your baby” and he grabbed this pig from under my arm and he tossed it in the lifeboat … when they threw that pig, I knew it was my mother calling me.’ (British Pathé 347801)
Edith followed the musical pig into the crowded Lifeboat 11 and, during the seven hours before being picked up by the passenger liner Carpathia, she comforted children on board with the tune, thought to be the Maxixe, from her lucky pig. Played by Theresa Thorne, Edith and the pig appear briefly in William MacQuitty’s film of Lord’s book, which shows her leaving her jewellery behind in favour of her lucky toy.
Edith Russell meets Theresa Thorne during filming of 'A Night to Remember'
The pig came to the Museum as part of the Lord-MacQuitty collection in 2003.
So did the pig really fly?
Well, dear reader, I am afraid that I may have over-egged the flying bit; it was more like travelling at sensible speed up the M1 in a van en route to the Nikon Metrology factory in Hertfordshire. But it was to be an extraordinary day, and as is the case with extraordinary days, relativity comes into effect and they are over all too soon. Even if the pig didn’t literally fly the time certainly did!
Nikon Metrology produces high resolution X-ray equipment that is normally used for doing failure analysis on, and checking the internal quality and precision of components such as electronic chips, automotive parts and aircraft turbine blades: objects with complex internal structure that have to be made exactly to specification. The systems can also be used to examine material properties in materials research, soil science and geology. We were met by computed tomography (CT) specialist, Andrew Ramsey, who is incidentally the first person in over 2000 years to have seen inside the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient Greek astronomical calculator, and had very kindly agreed to set a couple of days aside to examine our two Titanic relics using state-of-the-art CT scanning equipment.
A common factor of both of these objects is that neither can be opened without causing irreparable damage. The pig’s body is constructed from organic material, wood and papier maché are identifiable where the legs have broken and the outermost layer is of pig skin moulded around the carcass and pinned in places. Externally there is no evidence to suggest that the toy was designed so that the musical movement could be extracted for servicing and also no clue as to what sort of movement it contains. The watch, with its rust-stained glass and dial, is an extraordinarily poignant object with the hands – which read 3.07 – apparently frozen at the time of entering the water. Because of the watch’s condition and the nature of its history, we could never justify opening its case, let alone dismantling the movement.
Ready for the first scan, the watch safe inside its travel box on the turntable and the lucky pig packed in plastazote and acid-free tissue
We hope that the CT scan will eventually help us to answer the big question surrounding the watch, which is raised by the discrepancy between the time it shows and the officially recorded time of sinking of 2.20 a.m. It has always been believed that watch stopped when it entered the sea and that the time disparity highlights the issue of the changing local time as one travels westwards. Put another way, passengers would probably have had to adjust their watches daily to keep in step with local time, and so Norman would have been due to set his back the following day. But, of course, there was always a slim chance that the watch had stopped some time before entering the water and we hope the CT scan will help clarify this. We also hoped to learn what sort of watch movement was hidden within the case and who might have made it.
When it comes to x-rays, gold has similar properties to lead in that it tends to act as a shield. For this reason the watch went into the scanner first, in case we needed to use a more powerful machine. In this day and age, the x-ray image is not an unusual phenomenon, but the first view of its inside was thrilling: despite the 18-carat gold inner case back, known as the cuvette, we were going to get a really good look.
Each scan took just under half an hour to complete and, during scanning, the object is rotated through 360 degrees. The data is sent to a computer and converted into tiny building blocks called voxels, each representing a cube measuring 32.6 µm across (approximately 0.03mm) which are then put together to create the 3-D model. Once created it is possible to slice through any specified area to have a look inside the object.
One of the first dramatic shots of the mechanism shows it to be an English fusee watch with full-plate movement and bi-metallic balance.
- A first view of the watch movement through the cuvette and cap
A maker/retailer’s signature can just be made out but the gold has rather fogged the image. Because of this lack of clarity there is still a lot of sifting to do through the vast quantities of data, approximately 80 gigabytes in total, before we can be certain that we have the answers we are looking for.
By contrast, the lucky pig was far more scanner-friendly and we were very quickly able to see some spectacular results. It required two scans, the first to pick out the details of the main body and a second to obtain good images of the musical movement. To scan the movement, the lower energy radiation had to be filtered out and this is achieved by placing a small copper sheet in the path of the x-rays before they met the object.
The 3-D model of the pig assembled and ready for dissection
Dissecting the digital model down the middle gave us our first view of the pig’s interior and, as can be seen, it is made from moulded papier maché, with a transversely mounted wood soundboard to which the musical movement is mounted.
The rendered dissection showing the inner surface of the carcass, perhaps reminiscent of Damien Hirst’s ‘Mother and Child Divided’
From this scan we learn that the tail is simply a knotted piece of vellum that was never connected to the music box. Prior to scanning it seemed likely that this was spring-driven and activated by pulling the tail but the scans show us that it was a hand-powered type of movement, known as a manivelle (French for crank-handle). By slicing across the width of the model the cause of a rattling noise was identified as a hairpin, probably used in attempt to reconnect to the music box after the crank had broken away. The S-shaped object in the centre appears to be the original crank-handle and tail. Detailed examination of this object shows it to be a skin-covered metal tube, which is an unexpected and very exciting find, perhaps a case for key-hole surgery…
The model bisected horizontally, showing the shell construction of the carcass and the loose hairpin and what is possibly the original tail/crank-handle. The bright spots down the belly centreline are the pins securing the outer skin
The second scan of the lucky pig produced some brilliant images of the musical movement, showing it is quite simple in construction. It has a toothed wheel attached to the pin barrel, which is driven by a worm gear on the end of the crank shaft. The comb is marked with a distinctive star logo, which may in due course help us identify the maker.
Two views of the musical movement
The movement showing the star logo, by the screw on the near corner of the comb
What has been shown here is only the beginning of the study; these 3-D models provide invaluable information that will assist with our curatorial questions as well as the long-term care and conservation of these extraordinary objects.
On Monday I started work at the National Maritime Museum. So far it has been wonderful – everyone is very welcoming and interested in the project, and working in such a historically laden place is absolutely great. This Wednesday was the most exciting day of the week, as I was allowed to spend all day in a storage room with the medicine chests to study them. The first thing that struck me was their size or rather lack thereof. The measurements are in the catalogue, so I already knew the chests were not that big, yet seeing something with your own eyes is of course still an entirely different experience.
These medicine chests upon closer inspection looked like very practical first-aid kits, each containing about twenty to forty different material medica. Then something struck me: before coming to London I had been reading up on eighteenth- and nineteenth century English Navy medicine, and the lists of prescribed contents of ship’s surgeons’ chests I had seen seemed far more extensive than the contents of these chests. So I checked again, and indeed, in 1806 the standard Navy medicine chest contained about 62 different substances.
Does that mean the medicine chests at the NMM are not ship’s surgeons’ chests at all? It is possible, even if they were most likely used on ships. Most of them are simply too small to sustain a substantial ship’s crew with medical care for months or even years, and contain only drugs that can also be found in popular ‘companions to the medicine chest’ from the same period. Yet it is not so strange that someone boarding a ship, naval, merchant or exploratory, would invest in a personal medicine chest if he could afford it. Even if there was a surgeon aboard, there was a fair chance he would also fall ill and die at some point, and then it was most practical to have your own first-aid kit with you.
Moreover, ship’s surgeons seem to have constantly complained about being underpaid, which may have led them to use the drug supplies otherwise, and some of them were very inexperienced. All the more reason to bring your own stash. Meanwhile, I have already found some exciting leads in the archives on where these chests might be from and how they were used… to be continued!
PS: My initial plan this week was to write about the strange ceramics in huge Erlenmeyer flasks resembling wet anatomical preparations that I saw at the Naturmuseum Winterthur, but as I could not get into touch with the curator to ask who made them and how they were intended. I am still working on it, so maybe in a later blog!
HMS Endymion rescuing a French two-decker, 1803-05 (BHC0532)
This painting went on public display at the Museum in July 2011, for the first time in many years. What follows is a revision of the note posted here at that time, including updated details on the artist and his family kindly supplied by his great-great-granddaughter Sylvia Steer. I am grateful to her for making contact on the matter in September 2011 and also to Anthony Colls and to Jennifer Dunne.
The painter is the so-far little-documented Ebenezer Colls and the picture itself has until recently been something of a mystery. We have long known it relates to another version of the same incident by J. C. Schetky, though who was copying whom, and when, has been uncertain. Moreover, about twenty years ago and quite by chance, I came across another version at Grimsby by Nicholas Pocock, which must have been painted much earlier since he died in 1821. The uncertainties about how all three related have now proved fairly easy to resolve though not quite as tidily as first seemed the case.
In 1871 the well-known naval and marine artist, John Christian Schetky (1778 – 1874) exhibited an almost identical picture of this subject at the Royal Academy under the title ‘A gallant rescue; naval incident of the French war’ with a brief description of it. It roused considerable interest for reasons explained below, and was immediately purchased for 100 guineas by Admiral Sir James Hope, who presented it to the United Service Club as soon as it came off the Academy walls. In 1891 it was re-shown in the great Royal Naval Exhibition at Chelsea (no. 620), with a longer catalogue text. This had been put together by Hope in discussion with Schetky for the picture’s presentation to the Club, and in 1893 was also quoted in full in Sir John Knox Laughton‘s original ‘Dictionary of National Biography’ on Endymion’s captain:
‘Towards the close of the long French war, Captain the Hon. Sir Charles Paget, while cruising in the Endymion frigate on the coast of Spain, descried a French ship of the line in imminent danger, embayed among rocks upon a lee shore, bowsprit and foremast gone, and riding by a stream cable, her only remaining one. Though it was blowing a gale, Sir Charles bore down to the assistance of his enemy, dropped his sheet anchor on the Frenchman’s bow, buoyed the cable, and veered it athwart his hawse. This the disabled ship succeeded in getting in, and thus seven hundred lives were rescued from destruction. After performing this chivalrous action, the Endymion, being herself in great peril, hauled to the wind, let go her bower anchor, club-hauled and stood off shore on the other tack.’
The 1871 RA catalogue description adds that Endymion’s crew gave ‘three British cheers’ as they left the scene and that the ship dropped her starboard bower anchor to club-haul, a risky emergency manoeuvre in which the leeward anchor, with a spring (hawser) led astern, is dropped as the ship comes up into the wind: the vessel is then allowed to ‘reverse’ briefly onto the spring, pulling her stern quickly round to make sail on the opposite tack. The cable and spring have to be cut away and the anchor is usually lost, unless buoyed for later recovery:
‘Clubhauling was only resorted to as a measure of desperation in very bad weather, when embayed on a lee shore without room to wear [i.e., 'gybe' with the wind astern], and where there was no prospect that the vessel could tack successfully because of the sea breaking on the weather bow’ (John Harland, ‘Seamanship in the age of sail’ , p. 195)
The exhibition of Schetky’s picture in 1871 caused some public debate. For while Paget (1778-1839) commanded the Endymion from April 1803 to April 1805 he did not do so towards the end of the French wars (1793-1815) and nothing of this nature is recorded in his log, which was quickly checked at the time. If the incident happened, he may have omitted it for good reason in terms of the risk he took in hazarding his ship and the lives of his own men, albeit the seamanship involved is a testament to his confidence in them. He could not, however, have prevented it from entering naval lore by word of mouth. Laughton – one of the leading naval historians of his time – nevertheless dismissed it as ‘improbable’ in his 1893 DNB entry.
There things rested until 1913, when the Revd Edward Paget, Dean of Calgary, Canada, and Sir Charles’s grandson, published a ‘Memoir’ of him in which he devoted a chapter to ‘A Gallant Rescue’.* This testimony appears so far to have been overlooked. Edward Paget reports the story was well known in the family, originally from Sir Charles himself and that Schetky (according to the latter’s sisters) also heard it from him directly, since they were contemporaries and knew each other well. He was also not the first to depict it: for in 1807, Sir Charles had commissioned a previous picture of it from Nicholas Pocock (1740 – 1821). By 1913 this had descended to Edward and, though not now well-known, appeared (when this piece was first written) to be the one today in the local art collection at Grimsby.
There is, however, a snag. For while the Pagets certainly had such a picture, it appears to have been another version since, if the Grimsby records are correct, theirs was presented in 1871 by the Earl of Yarborough: he was High Steward of Grimsby but had no personal connection with the Pagets as far as can be seen. That would mean the Grimsby canvas cannot be the one inherited by Edward Paget and used to illustrate his 1913 ‘Memoir’. The only clue to an alternative source of the (B&W) illustration there is its apparent tone: that is, it looks lighter than the dark and stormy Grimsby oil, which might suggest that it was a watercolour version, for example. The original, whatever it was, in due course passed to Sir Charles’s fourth daughter Georgina who in 1841 married Captain William Henry Kennedy (d.1864) and on her death in 1901 to Edward Paget, her nephew.
It must presumably have been this one, which he knew when owned by Georgina Kennedy, that Schetky based his oil. One of Schetky’s sisters later told Edward that this was painted about 1866, though only exhibited in 1871. The ‘Memoir’ further confirms that the description, quoted above, was written by Hope and that the misleading dating of the incident to the end of the French wars was probably a slip of memory. Also that Sir Charles – who had other risky manoeuvres to his name – had not reported it officially since contrary to his specific instructions to destroy enemy shipping, let alone more general regulations. Edward also recalled his father’s report that Sir Charles’s particular worry in not doing so was how otherwise to account to the Admiralty for Endymion’s loss of the two anchors involved.
He nevertheless had Pocock – the leading marine painter of his day – depict the episode for him, in one or more versions. Laughton, by 1913, had also told Edward that he did not know of Pocock’s painting -or, presumably, the family tradition – when he wrote Sir Charles’s DNB entry some 20 years earlier. Edward himself made some enquiry to see if the French ship could be identified, though this got nowhere, and reproduced all the relevant albeit largely circumstantial evidence he had gathered on the truth of the incident. In sum, there is no reasonable doubt that it happened, though exactly when in the 1803-05 period, where on the northern Spanish coast, and which French warship was involved remain unknown.
The remaining questions are therefore, first, what was the presumed second version of the Pocock (i.e. oil or watercolour) which remained in the Paget family until at least 1913; and, second, where is it now? One would have thought that Sir Charles would have commissioned an oil – and it may indeed still be that at Grimsby, if it was disposed of before 1871. If so, his family appear to have had another and now unlocated version, possibly in watercolour, for much longer. It is that one which Edward Paget later had on his walls in Canada when he wrote the 1913 ‘Memoir’, and he may himself not have realized that there were perhaps two versions. Though not conclusive, this is the most probable explanation to fit the currently available facts.
Colls’s picture is the same general composition as both the Pocock and Schetky versions and it is safe to assume it is based on the latter, following its exhibition at the RA in 1871. It is, however, one of a same-size pair of which the other (BHC0482) shows the start of the action in which the Indefatigable and Amazon drove the French Droits de l’Homme onto the Brittany coast in 1797, in equally stormy conditions. Colls copied this from a print of a painting by W.J. Huggins and until the 1980s the present picture was itself mistakenly thought to show the end of the same episode. All of the Endymion pictures show her on the port tack as she prepares to drop her sheet anchor for the French two-decker, before bearing up into the wind, club-hauling at the cost of losing her starboard bower anchor, and clawing offshore on the starboard tack. The Schetky version remains in the former United Service Club building, London, now headquarters of the Institute of Directors.
Destruction of the Droits de l’Homme, 13 January 1797 (BHC0482)
Charles Paget was fifth son of the first Earl of Uxbridge and entered the Navy in 1790. Well-connected and competent he rose rapidly and had early success as a frigate captain. In 1804, in the Endymion, he became rich from his share in the capture of four Spanish treasure ships. After other commands as a captain and rear-admiral, he was promoted vice-admiral in January 1837 and posted to command the North America and West Indies station. He died of yellow fever in 1839, at St Thomas, Jamaica.
Colls was a marine painter who exhibited pictures at the British Institution, 1852-54, from an address in Camden Town but practised for a longer period. His work is competent and attractive, and he was certainly prolific since examples regularly appear on the market. His dates were not known until about 2004 when a genealogical web posting stated that he was born in 1812 at Horstead, Norfolk, (on the outskirts of Coltishall), into a family with a local history as owners of water mills. His grandfather was John Colls, miller and farmer, who with H. P. Watts rebuilt Horstead Mill in 1789, was its part owner until 1797, and died in 1806. He had a son, Richard, who became a flour merchant for the family product in London. The latter’s eldest child, also Richard (1802-80) was a still-life painter and photographer; Ebenezer – born on 1 July 1812 – was fourth child and second son and the sixth child and youngest boy was Lebbeus (1818-97) who became a Bond Street picture dealer and gallery owner. Ebenezer was both a picture dealer and an artist. How his artistic career began is unclear but he initially went to sea as a midshipman in the East India Company, which explains where he gained knowledge of ships. He made three eastern voyages, first in the Indiaman Rose (955 tons) from May 1828 and then two more in the larger Edinburgh (1326 tons) from March 1830 and May 1832 respectively. After leaving the sea he apparently made regular summer visits to the Channel Islands to sketch, and also along the south coast and to the naval ports.
In January 1841 in the Thanet area (in or near Ramsgate) he married Harriet Beal and they had four daughters and three sons who figure in the St Pancras, London, census returns of 1851 – 81: Richard, the eldest son (1844-1920), became a bookseller. Walter (1857-1938) became a clerk and Henry (1847-83) also a bookseller and later hotel keeper in Brighton, though not a successful one since he eventually went bankrupt. Ebenezer’s eldest child, Harriet (1842-88), initially taught music and Sarah (1846- 1919) became an accountant and later ran a private school in Hampstead. The third and fourth daughters were Isabella (1849-85) and Florence (b.1865). In the 1851 census Ebenezer’s profession is given as ‘picture dealer’; in that of 1861 ‘marine painter’; in 1871 he was living on ‘ “Dividends” ‘ (with the landscape painter, Edmund Gell, a boarder in his house) and in 1881 he is again called ‘artist’. His final address from before 1871 was 79 King Henry’s Road, Regent’s Park, and he died there aged 75 on 23 September 1887 (‘Morning Post’, 28 September). His widow died at the same address on 2 December 1916, her age being given as 94, which suggests birth in 1822 though she was only baptized at St Laurence, Thanet, on 25 December 1825.
A significant correction in this revised note is that the marine painter Harry Colls (1856- c.1908), and his brother Walter Lebbeus Colls (1860-1942), engraver and photographer, both of whom had successful artistic careers, were not Ebenezer’s children but his nephews, sons of his brother Lebbeus, who had seven children in all.
(* Edward Paget’s Memoir of the Hon ‘ble Sir Charles Paget… was originally privately printed in Toronto in 1911, with his own autobiographical reminiscences appended. The 1913 London edition omitted most of these and included further information, especially on the matter of the ‘Gallant Rescue’, from further information he gathered on a visit to England in 1912.)
Britain’s history has been fundamentally shaped by its relationship with the sea – you won’t find too many people here at the National Maritime Museum disagreeing with that statement! Sometimes, when we are particularly enthusiastic, we might even say that ‘boats built Britain‘ – the title of a recent exhibition here in Greenwich. Of course, this naturally begs the question: what did these boats help to build? Or, to put it another way, what type of British state emerged as a result of the maritime activity facilitated by the boats, ships and other vessels of the great Age of Sail?
These are some of the questions that I am currently grappling with as I prepare to give a lecture at Gresham College, in the heart of the City of London, on the subject of ‘Britain’s global trade in the great days of sail‘. The possibilities and profits offered by maritime trade were crucial in defining the country’s development as a global power in the Age of Sail. In this lecture, I will be exploring how British overseas trade went hand in hand with Britain’s global empire in those eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries days of the sailing ship.
Preparing a lecture like this is quite a task. In the space of about fifty minutes, it will cover events in several oceans; a couple of centuries of history; thousands of vessels; tens of thousands of voyages; and millions of people. But it is a fascinating subject and one which I hope can add to the exciting programme of events being organised by Gresham College. Founded in 1597, Gresham College is London’s oldest Higher Education Institution and has provided free public talks for over 400 years.
You can find out more about the range of events there on its website.
Halfpenny token obverse and reverse (MEC2033)
As part of the ongoing research for a new gallery, provisionally called ‘Navy, Nation and Nelson, 1688-1815′, I have recently been investigating the Museum’s collections relating to the Royal Navy in the 1740s. The simple premise is that by analysing what a nation read, bought and consumed during this period, we can begin to gauge how it thought about itself. During the 1740s a number of well-publicised naval victories struck a chord with the British national consciousness. Britain as a political and legal entity dated back to the 1707 Act of Union between England and Scotland, yet the concept of ‘Britishness’ understandably took time to sink into the nation’s collective heart. As the museum’s collections demonstrate, British naval victories during this decade were celebrated by various sections of society, while the navy began to be used as an emblem of national identity.
This found its truest expression in the widespread and unprecedented celebrations that followed Admiral Vernon‘s victories in the Caribbean in 1739-40. Ceramics with Vernon’s image emblazoned on them were purchased across the country. In the NMM’s collections is a swathe of material culture from the period, hinting at a widespread public engagement with Vernon and the navy.
Plate showing the taking of Porto Bello by Admiral Edward Vernon (AAA4352)
Vernon’s victories overlooked regional loyalties, being celebrated across England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and North America. Prints, poems and ballads promoting Vernon as a British hero appeared across the nation. One poem implored, ‘Come loyal Britons all rejoyce with joyful acclamations’. This they did, in great numbers, by acquiring personal items that spoke loudly of a newfound patriotism. Many coins were produced in celebration of Vernon’s victories; indeed, more medals were stuck in Vernon’s honour than any other figure in the 18th century. The NMM alone has 219 medals related to Vernon.
Medal commemorating Admiral Edward Vernon (MEC0890)
Consumption crossed regional and class divides. Some of the medals were of cheap metal; although demonstrating poorer workmanship, they remained highly patriotic in sentiment.
Medal commemorating the capture of Porto Bello, 1739 (MEC0901)
Naval patriotism was not limited to ceramics and medals, and encroached onto a curious array of 18th century possessions. Echoing a modern day penchant for celebrity perfumes, Havana snuff that ‘came directly’ from Admiral Vernon was advertised widely. Who actually bought it is slightly unclear, but it is not too fanciful to imagine it being a helpful talking point at Georgian dinners. There was something for female consumers too; fans were produced prominently displaying Admiral Vernon and portraying him as a national hero.
An ivory and paper fan printed with a depiction of Vernon’s victory at Portobello, 21 November 1739, hand coloured, 1740 (OBJ0421)
Written on the fan was the verse:
‘How the Briton Cannon Thunders
See my lads six ships appear
Every Briton acting wonders
Strikes the Southern World with Fear…’
Words like ‘Briton’s’ and ‘Britain’ embellished a variety of material culture inspired by Vernon. In doing so the navy was assisting in the creation of a ‘British’ identity.
The use of naval figures to propagate patriotic fervour was not limited to Vernon. Admirals Anson and Warren were also celebrated in a wide range of prints, pamphlets and material culture. Anson’s capture of a Spanish treasure fleet made him a national hero, with the treasure triumphantly paraded through the streets of London, helping to restore national self-esteem. His victory off Cape Finisterre in 1747 elevated him still further in the popular mind.
Medal commemorating the Battle of Cape Finisterre, 1747 and Admiral Lord Anson’s voyage, 1740-4 (MEC1134)
Accounts of his exploits were vastly popular. Crucially, he was judged as upholding fundamentally British characteristics; after the battle of Cape Finisterre, the Gentleman’s Magazine (also to be found at the NMM) highlighted ‘that truly British nobleman’ who had fought so well. Anson made sure the most widely read literature recorded a favourable account of his exploits, and loaded it with patriotic language. The art of self-promotion was an important part of the naval officer’s skill-set.
George Lord Anson Vice Admiral of Great Britain, Admiral of the Blue Squadron of His Majesty’s Fleet, 1751(PAF3416)
Both Anson and Warren, were celebrated in song:
‘To Anson and Warren your Bumpers life high,
They’ll chase the French Squadrons beneath ev’ry Sky…
…O’erjoy’d they fail forth and come up with the Foe,
Determin’d like Britons to strike a bold Blow.’
Anson and Warren: A Song. Words by Mr Lockman, set to music by Lewis Granom Esq. Printed for J. Simpson, London, 1747
This was stirring stuff; self-consciously patriotic and undeniably popular. The navy was a national symbol capable of crossing regional and social divides. In doing so, it was to make a significant contribution to the process of cultural nation building during the 18th century.